Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Apologetics (PhD)


David W. Hirschman


Brian McLaren, Intersubjectivity, Philosophy of Religion, Existentialism, Postmodernity, Postcolonialism


History of Christianity | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


To survey harsh criticisms against Brian Douglas McLaren (1956‒), readers gain the inaccurate impression that he is a heretical relativist who denies objective truth and logic. While McLaren’s inflammatory and provocative writing style is partly to blame, this study also suspects that his critics base much of their analyses on only small portions of his overall corpus. The result becomes a caricature of McLaren’s actual philosophy of religion. The thesis of this dissertation is simple: McLaren is, in fact, a rationalist and empiricist, who utilizes irony, humor, generalization, and ridicule to disturb those expressions of faith common to mainstream, Western institutional Christianity (i.e. “conventional Christian paradigms”). The difference is that McLaren is an abductive rationalist and a phenomenological empiricist, who objects to the Enlightenment’s over emphasis on analytical rationalism because it overlooks ethereal elements such as intuition, mysticism, and personal experience. This “analytic” approach to religion has since created “notional” Christians who focus almost entirely on cerebral and abstract elements of faith while ignoring its real-world impact on daily living (cf. GO §13, 205; SMJ §4, 34). This study will show that what appear to be the musings of an unlearned and unnuanced writer are actually the tactics of a skilled rhetorician trying to expose the limitations (and even impropriety) of an overly analytic approach to faith. Indeed, McLaren’s goal is to establish a robust paradigm through which believers can acquire more than just knowledge; they can live in solidarity with creation and Creator, as well.